Marvin Miller passed away last week. When this happened I immediately began work on a post detailing the important impact Miller’s work -- as the first leader of the Major League Baseball Players Association -- had on sports. And then I noticed that many other people had the same idea (see Jayson Stark, Jon Wertheim, Lester Munson, and Richard Justice – among many others). Given all the wonderful writing on Miller’s life and career, I decided to focus on how Miller impacted our understanding of both sports and economics.
Such a post... well, I could write more than a few thousand words on just that topic. Since few people want to read that many words at a blog, I am going to focus on Miller’s work to end baseball’s reserve clause (and what that has meant for baseball, sports, and economics).
Our story begins back in the 19th century. As noted in a wonderful article by E. Woodrow Eckard in the Journal of Sports Economics, the National League began in 1876 with a labor market quite similar to the markets we tend to observe outside of sports.